Geneva Car Barn Buildings 2016

Plans to rehabilitate and re-purpose the landmark and long-abandoned Geneva Car Barn buildings at Geneva and San Jose have been in the works since 2004.

And with funding having been secured for Phase One of the two-phase project, a project which will eventually transform the former Powerhouse and Office buildings into a center for community events and youth arts education, with a 300-person exhibition space, an 83-seat black box theater, art studios, a restaurant and retail space, San Francisco’s Planning Commission is slated to approve the first phase tomorrow.

Geneva Car Barn Powerhouse Building

If approved, the renovation of the Powerhouse building into the exhibition space as designed by Aidlin Darling, with a central lobby that will provide access to the future theater, studios and restaurant to be constructed within the former Office Building on the corner, should commence this Fall and be ready for use in the Summer of 2017.

Geneva Car Barn Powerhouse Rendering

The Phase Two renovation of the Office Building is dependent upon funding, which has yet to be secured, but could commence as early as 2018 and be ready for use in 2020.

Designed by the Reid Brothers and built in 1901 for the San Mateo Electric Railway Company, the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse complex has sat abandoned since 1989 when damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Slated to be demolished by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, ownership of the Car Barn buildings, but not the rail yard behind, was transferred from the SFMTA to the Recreation and Parks Department at the urging of the community and under the direction of San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Bjork Ingels

    This is a fantastic reuse of this gorgeous building, which I’m sure will fast become a community asset. Now Socketsite, how about you give proper credit to the design team (Aidlin Darling) that has worked tirelessly to bring this concept to life.

    [Editor’s Note: Tough crowd, not that we’d want it any other way. In addition to the Aidlin Darling Design tag and link to the Geneva Car Barn project page, we’ve since added a direct reference to the design team above.]

  2. Posted by wsf

    What an awesome building. I have never seen it before. Thankful to those who saved and turning it into something pretty incredible.

  3. Posted by Serge

    Fantastic reuse of this property. Love that nearly everything is left untouched. Now someone needs to do something with the Fillmore St. car barn.

  4. Posted by grrr

    a nice start; however, the entire Balboa station, especially above ground at Geneva and San Jose needs attention. it’s a dangerous mess, especially in front of the car barn where the Muni line drops off people in the street in a lane of traffic. should be high-rise housing over it all, too

    • Posted by zig

      agree it is a mess although super busy so I guess the design is not discouraging

      Can’t agree high rises make sense though adjacent to single family homes but decking the freeway would be great with retail

    • Posted by anon2

      It really is a shame that such a hugely popular heavy-rail intermodal transit hub serving over 10k commuters every day, is surrounded by what is essentially a 1950’s era suburb of single-family-homes, where the retail environment consists of exactly one hot dog cart. Definitely could use some modern urban development here.

  5. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    grrr is 100% correct, the Geneva Car barn is a great start, with more emphasis on the Balboa BART station and surrounding proposed sites and projects, along with some serious transit linkage (aka Geneva Harney LRV) and connections crossing the Geneva and San Jose Ave’s with historic street cars, and better linkage/loops for the T-line back up Geneva and the J/M/K lines as a SYSTEM, we would see Balboa Station transform into more of a hub of local schools, small business and the arts, inclusive of some new desperately needed essential housing for workforce families, nurses, teachers, and our service sector.

    • Posted by zig

      Some of you ideas seem interesting and some just arbitrary like more historic street cars in outer neighborhoods and LRT on Sloat?

      I agree with the spirit of your posts anyway that there needs to be more housing density and better transit in these areas linked to DC BART

    • Posted by sparky-b

      something like this?

  6. Posted by Mark

    Yes, we need essential housing for the middle class, but let’s be realistic. Do you know how much a 1BD apartment goes for a few blocks away in the Whole Foods complex on Ocean Avenue?

    Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. Save the historic streetcars please for Judy Garland enthusiasts and the tourists. This is 2016, not 1916. BART is proof enough that it shouldn’t have to take 45+ min to get from this part of town to downtown via MUNI. BART from DC to Montgomery takes about 15 min.

    Streetcars used to run along Sloat, but other than the Lakeshore Shopping Center it’s a long stretch between 19th Ave and Sunset Blvd. that really doesn’t warrant LRT investment. Any LRT funds should go toward improvements and extensions in areas of the city that are more urban.

    Build higher, indeed. No reason why a post-war setting can’t be inviting to some height.

    • Posted by zig

      Regionally we should focus on building where we already have invested billions in BART station with little density near-by like San Bruno and SSF

      This would be rational and obvious in many other countries but not possible in the Bay Area with local land-use planning control

      • Posted by Mark

        And soon we’ll get a massive Warm Springs car-oriented BART station rather than much-needed infill like 30th/Mission or parts of Oakland.

        Moving east, the WMATA Silver Line Phase Two to Loudon County in VA will have a station near, but not in, the Reston Center planned community. There are missed opportunities all over the country.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      a nice 12 story condo thats keeps this building’s facade would be perfect for this space

      • Posted by Mark

        does that include 1:1 parking? just asking because being less than 100 feet from a major transit hub would warrant that amount of parking. right?

  7. Posted by alberto rossi

    I went to the charrette for this project on December 12. It was packed with people from Communities United for Health and Justice and the like. There was absolutely no interest in the fact that this building is at a transportation hub nor was there any interest in making things more pleasant for the tens of thousands of transit riders who pass through here every day. Instead it was all demands for more social services for those at the deeply low income level.

    Muni has zero interest in the Balboa Station area as anything other than a streetcar parking lot.

    • Posted by Mark

      Agreed. The Balboa station should be a real transit hub, incorporating local service (MUNI) and commuter-rail-esque service (BART), not unlike the Back Bay station in Boston which is still within the city proper. MUNI will never get its act together at this location or anywhere else in the city.

    • Posted by Mark

      As for BART, it only cares about building huge commuter rail stations in the burbs. SF, one of the most urban city centers in the country, only has 4 BART stations along one small stretch of Market St. in its core. Pathetic.

      • Posted by Anon94123

        “SF, one of the most urban city centers in the country, only has 4 BART stations along one small stretch of Market St. in its core. Pathetic.”

        THANK YOU Mark! Again and again we are told by many on this site that cars should not be a transportation option in this city, yet they fail to admit how dismal the public transportation system is. As someone who has lived previously in London and Chicago, I did not own my first automobile until I moved to San Francisco. I never needed a car in London or Chicago to get to almost anywhere in those cities quickly and safely. Some of my friends in Los Angeles have more public transportation options in their neighborhoods than I have here in the Marina!

        • Posted by Mark

          But, in a few years you’ll be able to take the packed 30-Stockton from the Marina, stop at every block along the way, through North Beach, inch your way to the Central Subway station in Chinatown, get off the bus, descend 100 feet to the station platform and wait for a train to take you, most likely, one station where you will arrive at the Union Square station, ascend another 100 feet or, if you are connecting to BART or the Market St. subway, walk down a 2-block passageway to the Powell station and continue your subterranean journey.

        • Posted by Marina JHS Grad

          Seems to me, Anon94123, that long-time NIMBYism is to blame because Marina residents feel their little village is “perfect.” Anytime Muni wants to improve 30 Stockton service someone bitterly complains about the changes. Someone had even suggested that bus service be moved to Lombard St., a busy boulevard is hard to cross for pedestrians.

          • Posted by Mark

            I think that NIMBYism is to blame in most of the city where transit improvements are needed but not implemented. Folks in Parkside/Sunset, where I live, want to fight the removal of a half dozen stops on the L line which would help speed up service. For decades, Geary merchants in their 50s suburban mentality have fought tooth and nail against BRT, LRT, and BART on or under their precious street. Those are just a few examples…

        • Posted by zig

          Everyone I know in Chicago owns a car and actually and I think the percentage of those who drive to work in higher than SF. Great city but there is a lot of cars and diving there outside the loop

          • Posted by Anon94123

            @Zig….the difference is the CTA subway/rail system serves virtually every neighborhood in the city of Chicago, and the METRA does the same for the suburbs, that is why I did not need a car there. The reality is what Mark wrote about earlier, we have some stations under market street and think that means we have a subway/rail system…..WRONG. The CTA system in Chicago has over 200 stations, MUNI is no camparison. Also, I remember when riding from Armitage or Diversey to the Loop and on average there was a train every 2 minutes, even during non peak periods…..try to get that type of frequency on MUNI or BART during non peak periods or weekends.

        • Posted by zig

          It may not be reasonable to compare BART to old subway systems but it should be compared to the DC metro which has a more station density and more service in the core

          BART is really a wasteful sprawling system with poorly utilized stations and a bad problem with peaking at commute hours downtown.

  8. Posted by alberto rossi

    The other development site nearby is across the street at the so-called Upper Yard. The Mayor’s Office of Housing has targeted it for affordable housing. CUHJ actually *ran* the charrettes for this site. They demanded that it be 100% “deeply affordable”, run as co-op by the tenants, no retail, social services for the tenants on the ground floor. Though the site is zoned for 160 feet, the plans are for a four story building.

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